Using social media to develop your Personal Learning Network

 

In 2018 there seems to be no way to be an unconnected learner or educator, although this is nothing new or innovative it is important to understand that there are still some people who are not confidently navigating the collaborative depths of the net.  This artefact has been created with them in mind, ideally, it would be part of a series and both presenter style and production would improve over time with experience and feedback. Being a connected learner can take time and although committed to the cause, many of us find it hard to maintain a constant when it comes to contributing.  There are many tools and resources to use in developing a personal learning network, and social media networks facilitated by the likes of Twitter have been a constant in the landscape for over ten years. There are those who now complain that there is too much ‘noise’ on Twitter, there are still ways to navigate and curate the content for your purpose.  Using social media to create and build relationships for professional and personal learning and develop the skills we need for the future to ensure we remain connected are core to the purpose of this artefact.

The artefact was initially called ‘Using Tweetdeck to navigate and enhance your personal learning network’, however during the production, it became more about how to use social media and developing your PLN.   Through extended research, it became clear that there were many examples of this online already, such as Kathleen Morris’s challenge on Edublogs. This assisted with the artefact being aimed at a clear audience, teachers who do not spend their time using social media for their learning network and as a quick introduction to hopefully inspire them to use either Facebook or Twitter.  As educators, we are now faced with a myriad of technology every day from learning management systems to cloud storage. For many this can be disheartening and disconcerting, there is a need for some simple tips for sharing and organising. Most social media networks allow you to filter or organise people through lists or groups (Skyring, 2017), this can be invaluable when managing your PLN.

For many, their virtual PLN and the opinions held within are more important than those of the colleagues they work with every day.  It is important clear judgements about who to follow and whose opinion counts have been made, similar to the need to be clear about what you want from your PLN and how to filter that to match your cause.  This artefact demonstrates tools which can be used to develop your PLN. With Twitter it is easy to have several personas to match your different learning needs and Facebook which now using groups and events can be exceptional, plus it has the added benefit of being where nearly all people over thirty use for social networking.

Networking can evolve into a broad personal learning network extending beyond what was first created and virtual PLNs gain understanding from a huge selection of groups for personalised continuous learning. Appropriate care and diligence should be made when aligning yourself with others in a virtual PLN, through social media.  Care should be taken that your opinions and attitudes are shared when aligning with an individual. A PLN can be a powerful learning tool if you understand how to best leverage it. Learning happens at the same time simultaneously, both online and offline.

The video is a combination of a range of media, the recording of the presenter on a green screen, the use of a presentation for the credits and headings, copyright free background videos from Pexel and screen recordings of using social media sites.  These were all combined together along with a separate voiceover to create a professional looking video to encourage other educators that not only should they use social media as a tool for learning but that they can also create products of a high quality for their networks and classes.  The aim was to increase engagement by promoting the video and subject through virtual learning networks. Research indicates that video offers a more authentic experience and the speaker talking to the camera makes it more personal.  

Although this video is stand alone the idea was for it to appear as part of a series, a webcast series that would motivate and inspire teachers and educators to develop their PLN and be part of a site where that was promoted.  This would mean that presentation could become sleeker as more experience was gained and there would be opportunities to do interviews with inspirational educators. Production took up more time and required a depth of skill which meant that the end product was not as high end as many artefacts supporting the development of PLNs through social media.

There have been many attempts to describe the processes of a successful PLN, Rheingold, H., & Weeks, A. (2012) with explore, search, follow, tune, feed, engage, inquire, and respond. Hodgson et al (2012) use the 5 c’s of PLNs, consider, consume, converse, create, celebrate, whereas Jarche (2013), uses seek, sense, share when building a network of trusted colleagues.  These all have in common a need for filtering the ideas we find through our networks, our communities of practice and adapting them for use.  We use our understanding of our communities and networks to discern with whom and when to share our knowledge.

Deyamport (2013) wrote his dissertation on can twitter supported personal learning network enhance a PLN? This research indicated that all participants felt that there was value in a Twitter supported PLN but few made progress towards their goal of using it.  How do we start with using platforms like Twitter? There seems to be evidence that it has been proven to be useful but difficult to start. Initially just focus on one area to start with such as a conference hashtag or follow someone whom you know has high-quality ideas.  Jarche (2013) even makes suggestions about when, and how often you should access and interact with the network, to begin to make sense of how it works.

Backchannels are another way that Twitter has been used for learning and professional development, Alderton et al (2011). This has really taken off in recent years and at professional development opportunities such as conferences, you are invited to share on a stream with other participants and even those who can’t attend and who follow the stream live. This has been a tool that many have picked up on and means that everyone can contribute.  The artefact created demonstrates how to use Tweetdeck to follow groups or hashtags and stay up to date with content as it updates. Although not all networked learners value the same things, there are some things which most place as important (V. Hodgson et al, 2014), working in collaboration, discussion and communities.  Each of us is able to control our own learning process, using technology to make connections or as a platform for greater levels of mutual engagement.

Siemens (2004) used the theory of connectivism, as a learning theory for the digital age, a framework of learning that makes sense of how information is connected in our world of constant change.  He was interested in how Informal learning, through communities of practice, personal networks and work-related networks were changing with technology. How it has become good practice to have a growth mindset and the encouragement that learning is a lifelong activity, not something that we do in short bursts for academic acclaim.  Technology has altered the way we do nearly everything from travel to leisure so it makes sense that it impacts the way we learn and where we learn. We need to know where to find knowledge we do not necessarily need to know it in itself. Connectivism gives us the language and the theoretical framework to describe the connected learner’s process of learning.

The teacher/learner needs to influence their personal community to meet their needs both online and offline so they can build experiences to become current in today’s fast-changing world, Nussbaum-Beach, & Ritter, (2011). Technology models of professional growth and practice encourage educators to collaborate, using original ways to share knowledge.

Although through research and extended reading it could be perceived that there is no longer a need for videos like this and that teachers and educators are all connected and know about how to develop their PLN.  However, once you penetrate further into teaching networks there are still many out there who have not leveraged social media and networks to extend their understanding and participation in what is happening in the world of education.  Through an increase in the use of social media, networking educators become exposed to more opportunities within their physical network, such as Teachmeets, networking meetings and those run by schools or educational establishments. In NSW, both the department of education and the standards authority promote their training events through social media.

Creating communities of practice is not as easy as it looks, takes time and practice to develop the skills to deliver good content. Everyone thinks they have valid contributions, is there too much noise out there and is it hard to weed out the authentic moments?  Are we too late now?

References

Alderton, E., Brunsell, E., & Bariexca, D. (2011). The end of isolation. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(3), 354. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1497202409?accountid=10344

Deyamport,W.H.,,III. (2013). An implementation of a twitter-supported personal learning network to individualize teacher professional development (Order No. 3559871). Available from ProQuest Central; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1355174325). Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1355174325?accountid=10344

Fenwick, Tara, and Richard Edwards. Actor-Network Theory in Education, Routledge, 2010. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csuau/detail.action?docID=544021.
Created from csuau on 2018-08-31 16:37:52.

Jarche, H. (2013). PKM in 2013 [Blog post]. Life in perpetual beta. Retrieved March 8, 2014, from http://www.jarche.com/2013/01/pkm-in-2013/


Morris, K, (2016). Step 3: Using Twitter to Build Your PLN, Edublogs, https://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/pln-twitter/

Nielsen, L. (2013, August 11). How strong is your personal learning network? Take this quiz to find out. The innovative educator [blog post]. Retrieved from http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/interactive-conversation-on-developing.html

Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Ritter, H. L. (2011). Connected educator, the : learning and leading in a digital age. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au

Rheingold, H., & Weeks, A. (2012). Net smart : how to thrive online. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au

Skyring, Dr C. (2017). Using Social Media To Build Your Personal Learning Network, [Blog post], EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS, https://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2017/07/using-social-media-build-personal-learning-network/

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Wenger, E., Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice. Retrieved from
http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/

Whitby, T, (2014), The Connected Educator: It Begins with Collaboration, [Blog post], Edutopia, https://www.edutopia.org/blog/connected-educator-begins-with-collboration-tom-whitby